Human nature is what it is, there’s no getting around it. Sell hamburgers for $7.99 (full price) and you will find only hungry people buying them. Put them on ‘sale’ for $5.99 and even the not-so-hungry may buy one from you. But offer them for ‘free’ and the allure is irresistible: everyone will eat, hungry or not, and some will eat until they puke. Yes, ‘free’ is magnetic and addictive, especially when it comes to food.
In the realm of politics, there is something even more powerful and more addictive than ‘free’ food. This element has a form of gravitational pull of its own and is irresistible. The element in question is OPM and, like its homonymic namesake ‘opium’, it is highly addictive. It starts with a little taste and soon, like the case of the free hamburgers, one simply cannot get enough of OPM. So, what exactly is OPM? Why, it’s Other People’s Money, of course.
Local leadership from Cass County, Fargo, Oxbow, and others have an OPM addiction problem. Saying ‘No’ to oneself while in the throes of an OPM addiction is difficult to impossible. But think of it: why should one have to exercise self-restraint with such ready access to OPM? After all, the millions are just out there for the taking: $450 million from the State, $725 million from assessments, millions more each month from sales taxes. There is a veritable trough full of OPM to belly up to.
With so much OPM so readily available, is it any wonder that a fiscal train wreck like the FM Diversion project, an economic development plan wrapped in a flood-protection cloak, is able to find footing? The Corps said years ago that the all-in cost of the project was in excess of $2 billion but the local OPM Cartel is still today selling it as a $1.78 billion project and hey, if it runs to $3 billion, $4 billion or more, it’s just OPM, right? A little OPM is good so a LOT of OPM is better, correct? The nature of addiction demands more over time: it’s just the way it is.
When the Oxbow project moves from the projected $65 million cost to $100-plus million, no problem: just bring on the OPM to make up the difference. Buying up homes for 200% plus of valuation, $2.7 million for this one, $1.3 million for that one, here a million, there a million: it’s all just OPM! It’s not even real money, is it?
It won’t take long until the FM Diversion project moves from snorting OPM to mainlining it and keeping up with the ever increasing demand for OPM, whose job is that? With all of the government entities, engineering firms, lawyers, private interests and consultants bellied up to the trough, where will the OPM come from?
Well, opium, the homonymic mate to OPM, comes from the poppy and dates back to as early as 3,400 B.C. in lower Mesopotamia. Opium has always been a largely imported product. OPM, meanwhile, is generally home grown, supplied by the taxpayer. So, taxpayer beware! It is your job to keep the trough full. And, over time, that job will move from difficult to onerous to Herculean so eat healthy and work out: you are going to have some seriously heavy lifting to do! The OPM Cartel will demand it.